Dennis Gorecho .
THE seabased sector’s remittance comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar OFW remittances which help spur domestic consumption in the Philippines and a key ingredient in the country’s drive to achieve higher but sustainable growth.
Under the POEA Standard Employment Contract, the Filipino seafarer is required to make an allotment, which shall be at least 80 percent of the seafarer’s monthly basic salary, payable once a month to his designated allottee in the Philippines.
A common remittance problem is the issue of the “allottee,” defined as any person designated by the seafarer as the recipient of his remittances to the Philippines. The “allotments” do not go directly to their beneficiaries but are coursed through their manning agencies as middlemen, who disburse in pesos the seafarer’s monthly earnings to the allottee.
The employment contract is the bilateral agreement between the seafarer and his principal, as represented by the manning agency. Like any personal property, he can freely dispose or give to anybody without other limitations than those provided by law. His right to dispose his wage remains in his discretion.
What is required by law is to implement the required inward remittance of the 80 percent of his basic salary to the Philippines and not to see whether or not the full amount of the remittance is received by the dependents, or the manner as to how he will divide or dispose it.
Under this concept, a seafarer’s wife cannot force the agency to remit to her account more than what is allowed by the seafarer. The employer cannot interfere on how it should be divided and to whom the salary should go. Otherwise, the manning agency can be liable for breach of contract.
Nevertheless, the wife can file a civil case for support. Once granted, the court order should be given to the manning agency and attached to each POEA contract. This will serve as a notice that failure to comply will have legal consequence. The agency is likewise bound to abide by said order.
On the other hand, a Filipino seafarer can be held criminally liable due to the act of abandoning his financial obligation to persons to which he is obliged by law to support. Under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act (VAWC), “economic abuse” can be committed against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate.”
Popularly known as VAWC, it defined “Economic abuse” as any act that makes or attempts to make a woman financially dependent which includes the following:
1. withdrawal of financial support or preventing the victim from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, except in cases wherein the other spouse/partner objects on valid, serious and moral grounds as defined in
2. deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources
If convicted, the seafarer shall be punished by prision mayor, or imprisonment of a minimum of six years and one day to a maximum of twelve years. He shall also shall pay a fine in the amount of not less than P100 thousand but not more than P300 thousand. The court may also issue a hold departure order once the case is filed.
(Dennis R. Gorecho is a lawyer who heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail to email@example.com or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)